The mission of the Mine Safety and Health Administration is clear: To prevent death, illness, and injury from mining, and promote safe and healthful workplaces for U.S. miners.
We know that it takes both robust enforcement efforts as well as extensive training and education to keep miners safe. In fiscal year 2019, we enhanced our compliance assistance efforts, focusing strategically on spikes in particular causes of mining accidents.
For example, following three mobile equipment fires that resulted in one fatality and one serious injury, we launched a Fire Suppression System Initiative to inform operators and miners of potential hazards. We examined all 4,288 pieces of mobile equipment currently in use with such systems for compliance but did not issue citations unless they remained unremedied at the next inspection. Compliance assistance specialists from the agency’s Educational Field and Small Mine Services emphasized the importance of fire suppression safety at 617 mines that collectively employ 32,000 miners.
About half of all U.S. mining fatalities in recent years – including 13 of the 27 fatalities in 2018 – were due to accidents involving powered haulage. That classification includes mobile equipment, conveyor systems, and anything else under power that hauls people or materials. We've made preventing powered haulage accidents a priority, focusing on mobile equipment at surface mines, seat belt usage and conveyor belt safety.
During a six-week period spanning August and September, three miners died in electrocution accidents, with another two close calls that resulted in injuries. On September 23, MSHA launched a special campaign to educate miners on the types of procedures that could have prevented these accidents, such as locking and tagging out equipment and using appropriate personal protective equipment. So far, we have taken this message to over 5,000 mines.
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